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reviewed by MIKE CLIFFORD

This series of games premiered at the London Toy Fair earlier this year. All are card based, none are duffers (as you would expect from Gibson quality control, ie Roger Heywood), and two -- the horse and motor racing titles -- were designed by Reiner Knizia.

Armchair Cricket has been around longer than Ray Illingworth, and is a straightforward card game in which the batsman needs to trump the bowler to score runs, eg bowler plays a 3 ``bats'' card whilst the batsman needs to reveal a four ``bats'' card or better to trouble the scorers. Failure to match the symbol will result in dismissal, which varies according the suit in play. Advanced rules introduce the elements of cricket which deem us all ``barmy'' in the eyes of our American friends. 2 or 4 players.

Club Golf looks familiar, and I have no doubt that the historians amongst you will jog my memory as to the game's antecedents. I admit to not yet having played this, but have seen a demonstration game and noted that the principle is to select a golf club card, which is then matched to the roll of a 20-sided die to prompt progress towards the hole. The course itself is created by an additional 18 cards, and the package is completed by a pad of scoresheets. 2-4 players.

Reiner Knizia's Turf Horse Racing is a simple betting game whereby cards (in seven matching stable colours) are placed under the race course and a single die featuring four ``horsey'' symbols (matching those on the cards) is rolled. The wide band of movement factors allows each player the opportunity to shift his own selection a mega distance, or scupper a rival. For example, a ``hard hat'' on one horse card might show ```16'', but as little as ``3'' on another. The game skittles along at a fair old pace, and is likely to join that ever expanding list of ``closers''. 3-6 players.

The other Knizia design, Formula Motor Racing, is less satisfactory, but still half decent. Players choose two cars of the same colour, and play cards from their hand to juggle the race order. For the most part, the cards indicate which colour team should shift forwards (or backwards), although ``doom'' and pit cards are also included. Moving the cars can be a little unwieldy, but overall it works and the result is always in doubt until the last card is played. 3-6 players.

Those puzzled by the bland, aftershave-style packaging will be appeased by Gibson's attempt to market the games through outlets other than traditional toy shops and games specialists. Good luck to them.

Mike Clifford

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Stuart Dagger